Speakers Manifesto

I put together a synopsis of what my talks are about, whom I've talked to and some feed back to what people have thought. If anyone is interested please email at
matthewjohnstone@mac.com and I shall send you out a pdf.

I now have a quiver of different talks I can offer. I am just as happy talking to high school students as I am the Reserve Bank. Some of the talks are as follows:

Mood Disorders: 1) I Had a Black Dog 2) Living with a Black Dog 3) Headstrong

Understanding Resilience & Positive Psychology

Using creativity in story telling

The Happiness Cake (a talk developed especially for teenagers)

The Alphabet of the Human Heart (a talk about balance)


The first major talk I did was in August of 2006 where I was asked to do a joint talk with Professor Gordon Parker from the Black Dog Institute (www.blackdoginstitute.org.au) for the Illumni Association (past graduates) at the University of Sydney. The night before the talk Professor Parker rang to say that they had met the full capacity for the room that they had booked which was about 120 (they’d been expecting between 50 to 75 people). ‘That’s good ….isn’t it?’ I asked with my insides already forming a giant pretzel, he replied ‘Yes it is good …. but we just don’t know what to do with the other 650 people that have RSVP’d’.

It wasn’t quite the fireside chat I’d been hoping for and apart for the urge to book a flight to somewhere incredibly remote; the night was a success and the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

I’ve since realised that it’s one thing to create a book about depression and it’s another entirely to get up in a room full of strangers and prize open your chest. Terrifying and rewarding at the same time.

When I delivered I Had a Black Dog to Pan Mac Millan in 2005 I emphatically stated that it was not my intention to become the poster boy for depression. I told them defiantly that it maybe part of who I am but it’s not the sum total.

Them’s fighting words were subconscious attempts counter balance my gnawing, inner fear and turmoil about what I launching into the ether.

This little book was after all, was the polar opposite of the appearance I’d been so carefully grooming and projecting for the last 20 years. One shiny, happy, chappy with a resume of tricks.

What I’ve since learned is that if you allow yourself to be authentic and if you allow yourself to go into a spirtual free fall it’s amazing where life can and will take you.
For years I was terrified of what people would think or do if they found out I harboured a head full of woe. The Imax theatre in my mind played horror films in 3D and
Dolby Hi-Fidelity of possible outcomes. What I’ve since learnt is that being truly genuine and authentic is actually quite a rare human commodity. In truth the majority of us tend live our lives like those surface dwelling mosquito’s whom live their lives skimming, without ever going deep.

I’m not suggesting that we all need to publicly air our troubles or talk constantly of deep and meaningful’s but if we wish to overcome difficulties it’s important to (a) face who we truly are (b) learn the skills to communicate authentically to those we love (c) go easy on ourselves (d) admit that we’re not alone (e) realise that it’s ok and not a crime to ask for help. Otherwise, like me; we tend repeat lessons until learnt and that can be a long, crummy & painful class.

Since the Illumni Speech I’ve done 100's and 100's of such talks all over Australia mostly to corporations and rural communities. Both of these environments are radically different but the problems of mental health are the same. In the country there’s the attitude of ‘she’ll be right mate’ and in business ‘you’re only as good as your last deal’.
There’s no room for ‘I’m not happy and I have no idea why’ or ‘help!’

The public attitude towards it is not unlike someone farting on a bus, everyone is aware of it’s existence but they won’t acknowledge it and the person who farted did won’t own up to it for fear of ridicule.
But at the end of the day we all fart because we’re only human.

When you consider that between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve of 2010 there were over 10,000 phone calls to Lifeline, it paints a sad picture of how much difficulty a lot of people are in and I would hazard a guess that, that number was the tip of the iceberg.

The boardrooms, tents or paddocks I’ve talked in have been pretty much to full capacity, not because I’m an outstanding speaker or incredibly good looking (ha ha) but because there is a great need for information and understanding on the subject.

To me it’s all about turning a negative into a positive, it’s about facing adversity and coming out the other side. It’s about instituting change within the society we live and the places we work so that this, condition, disease, Black Dog, what ever you might call it can be better understood, articulated and dealt with.

I don’t like to think about it as talking about depression per say, depression is a label.
It’s about human frailty which all of us can relate to on some level.